Editor’s note: The following post was written by the Lovefraud reader “Brielle.” Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.
Three years ago I left someone whom I only recently understood displays all the classic symptoms of being a sociopath. I’m writing this now to help other people who have had a close relationship, but not a romantic relationship, with a sociopath. It is still just as devastating when you have made the person the centre of your world.
Young, vulnerable, and naive; the perfect target
I was very young when I met her, emotionally vulnerable and naÃ¯ve. To me she seemed so clever and charismatic. She offered me love, seemingly solutions to my lack of self respect, and she seemed to know everything I didn’t. I had just started being a full time member of a spiritual group, but felt inadequate. She seemed so much more clued and seemed to have connections with the hierarchy. She also gave me the attention I craved.
I wasn’t the only one. There was a group of young people who became entangled with this person. We respected her. Looked up to her. I didn’t have a lot of money, but those who did became encouraged by this person to give money towards a visionary project. This was done without the knowledge of the people leading the group, because this person subtly encouraged us to distrust them. She would share their deficiencies and failings with us in how they had dealt with her. And yet they still seemed to trust her.
Intertwined in the deceit
I spent a huge amount of time involved in running a spiritual project with her, which on the surface, was hugely successful. Everywhere we went, people were impressed by her and flocked around her. I felt good that I was so trusted by her. Then when she moved to a remote area, some people followed her. I followed her after a couple of years.
It gradually emerged that she wasn’t spending this money on what she had promised. She invested it in properties to be developed, which then took ages to sell. The spiritual leaders started to become aware of what she was doing and remonstrated her, but she insisted she was coming from the best of motivations. I always believed her. I developed an emotional dependency on her, even though she was always demanding. Many times she was emotionally belittling of me, and angry, and sometimes she got violent.
I think this dependency came from a time when I became convinced that I had been a victim of sexual abuse from a close relative. She disclosed that she had too. I spent some time with her to “heal” after I had had what I thought was a flash back. Looking back, the option that there was any other explanation was never explored. It created a rift in my self belief, which made me increasingly dependant on her. Others couldn’t understand why I accepted the way she talked to me or behaved towards me.
In the end, most of the others left. I had too much investment, despite the increasing pain I experienced in our relationship, which I blamed on my own weaknesses. She would always blame me for everything. She made me doubt myself. She built herself up as knowing everything about other people, me, the world. She made herself out to have psychic abilities and to have a hotline to divine power. She was so convinced of her own specialness; she thought she was better than all the other spiritual leaders and was convinced that eventually she would replace them and that they were all blinkered. She would try convince others who visited us of this.
The visitors became less and less as people were advised not to visit us. I tried leaving a couple of times when I couldn’t cope with her behaviour, but I didn’t have any backup of friends or connections, so in the end always returned to her. I lied to people for her, did fraudulent activity to cover up her debt and dealt with all the business activity, even taking another job when the business was failing to support us.
Dedicated , dependent, and depressed
I was entirely isolated. I couldn’t talk to anyone in the group because I didn’t want to betray her. I couldn’t talk to family for the same reason. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have any connection with the people I worked with. I was paralysed, sunk in depression, barely functioning. It was only gradually, when I made connections with a couple of people through the internet, that I started to regain some sort of self belief. They liked me, they seemed to think that I was a good person. I had stopped believing in myself entirely.
Then came a day when I finally had to make a decision. She had already been violent a couple of times; hitting me on the head with something heavy or sharp, I ended up in hospital the first time. This day, she wanted me to find something for her, and I couldn’t find it. She threatened me that if I didn’t find it by the next day I would have to pay for it out of my wages; she had used my bank card before and I knew she would. I was looking after her, cooking and cleaning; she was always “ill” and stayed in her room, but she came to my room, which I couldn’t lock, and tried to come in. I stopped her and she hit me. She had been lying to me recently, though denied it. I finally saw that there was something not consistent in her; she looked deranged, mentally ill. I realised that if I stayed, she would always take my money; I would never escape her or have the funds to live on my own.
Meticulous escape plan but no place to go
Somehow, I meticulously planned my escape. I packed everything of mine; took nothing belonging to her or the business. I took everything of mine off the computer and deleted it. I tied everything up. I worked all night. I had nowhere to go. I phoned women’s shelters, but there was no place. I couldn’t think of where to go. I moved everything out of my room to a neutral place without her knowing. In the morning, I left what she would need and a note. She heard me, and I somehow had to act through it, knowing I was leaving. In the end, I remembered an old friend who had helped me before, and she took me in.
It wasn’t over then though, she called me repeatedly on my mobile phone, but I didn’t respond. I intuitively knew that this was it, no more going back. But later on, I found she had used my bank card details to empty my account. I was desperate. I called the bank and tried, using her details to move the money back into my account. I failed, but I ended up having to go through a disciplinary process at work and nearly losing my job. As it was, because I was always giving her money, and properties that were later repossessed went in my name, my credit was awful.
Since leaving, I have rebuilt my life. The spiritual group has been absolutely supportive and there for me, and my online friends also really helped. I am now trying to help others with the methods of meditation and understanding that have helped me. However, the pain has recently re-emerged because the fear of her was so deep that I think I shelved a lot of it as I couldn’t deal with it.
I have been considering what has helped so far on the journey.
- Absolute cut-off; I didn’t respond to her pleas for reconciliation.
- Sticking to the truth. I told people that I trusted the absolute truth of what had happened, which freed me from the burden of it. I also had to tell strangers at work, so they understood what I was going through and why I had acted in the way I did, but that was therapeutic in a way.
- Being legally clear. When being pursued by bailiffs for a debt she had put in my name, I gave her a time frame to sort it out, and when she didn’t, I told them all about her and how she had been operating. I also had to tell the bank about the card fraud. I didn’t feel I wanted to do either, but she clearly wasn’t bothered about dumping on me so I didn’t have any responsibility to look after her.
- Getting support. The friend I moved in with made a good suggestion of going to see a doctor and that was a great move. He was very good and saw how stressed I was; he signed me off from work for over a month, which gave me the time I needed to move to a new place and start to recover. He also had a very good suggestion of writing a diary, not for self analysis but for just writing down what I did each day. It was great to ground myself and help to come to terms with what was happening.
- Having friends. My friend I moved in with was a great support, and I owe her a lot for that. Also I spoke to my online friends on the phone who helped to keep me grounded and have faith in myself. Later on, I reconnected with good friends in the spiritual group who have also been a great support.
- Having spiritual support. Despite all that had happened, having a spiritual belief and strength was the one thing that kept me going and helped me emerge again as a whole person.
Taking the power back
I see now that I gave this person a huge amount of power in my life. I feared her, but I also desired her love and support. I wanted the “specialness” that she made me feel. Now I know I am special, without her. I don’t need her. In fact, she fed off of me. She needed me. And after I left, she lost the business. She totally lost the support, or any trust, of the spiritual group, and is still committing fraud. She has no power. She has nothing, and I have everything. She cannot hurt me. Everything she told me was a lie. She is weak. And the only strength she has is the charming illusion she can sometimes spin, but even that is not what it was, and people can see through it.
I am still dealing with the kernel of fear and pain I have inside me, but I know with time and love it will go and this writing is a way of facing that and letting it go.